Bush Confident Congress Will Address Blackout Questions

President Bush voiced confidence Tuesday that pending energy legislation in Congress can be reworked to address the sort of electricity transmission (search) problems typified by last week's widespread blackout.

Chatting with reporters while on his way to play golf not far from his ranch here, Bush said a conference committee of House and Senate lawmakers, designed to resolve differences in the energy bill, should be "up and running" in about three weeks.

Bush said he talked by phone Monday night with Rep. Billy Tauzin (search), R-La., and Sen. Pete Domenici (search), R-Ariz., two of Congress's leading players on energy issues.

"Both members are very optimistic about reaching an agreement, obviously on infrastructure modernization," he said, "but as importantly, other issues related to energy."

"One thing is for certain, they're very confident that they'll have a mandatory reliability standard in the energy bill," the president said. "What that means is that companies transmitting energy will have to have strong reliability measures in place. Otherwise, there will be a consequence to them. There'll be incentives in the new bill that encourage investment in energy infrastructure."

The power outage that left millions of people in the dark from the Midwest to the Northeast last week has resulted in demands that the nation's power grid be upgraded. But regional conflicts and fear about electricity deregulation (search) could prevent quick action on improving an antiquated and fragile transmission system.

The administration on Sunday had called on Congress to require utilities to comply with rules aimed at assuring a stable flow of electricity, or face sanctions. The administration also made clear that it will cost consumers more money to fix the problem.

Bush said Tuesday he is "very pleased with the attitude of the members - their desire to get a bill done quickly and get it to my desk. I have been calling for an energy bill for a long time and now's the time for the Congress to move and get something done."

Bush noted that on Wednesday, a joint inquiry with the Canadians will begin.

"I don't know how long it's going to take to find out what went wrong," he said.